Friday

May 16, 1986

10:47 P.M.

Marty was rather distracted on Friday, and a little angry at himself. He knew Doc would be leaving at the end of the day, only to return after God-Knows-When, and here he was watching a stupid action movie that he could just as easily watched the next day.

By the time his truck pulled into the parking lot in front of Doc's garage, it was a quarter till eleven. He noticed that Jennifer's car, an old white Ford Granada, was parked out front, but the DeLorean was nowhere in sight. Marty assumed that it was inside the garage.

That assumption was proven incorrect when Jennifer opened the door.

"Where's Doc?" Marty asked. "Where's the DeLorean?"

"It's out in the alley," she said. She kissed him. "How was the movie?"

"Uh, great," Marty said. Jennifer stepped outside and closed the door, then took the keys out of her purse and locked the door.

"What's going on?" Marty asked.

Jennifer sighed. "Doc said he wants to leave as soon as possible," she said. "He wouldn't tell me why, though."

Marty and Jennifer walked towards the back of the lab. Behind Doc's lab was a small dirt alleyway, and beyond that was a lawn that abutted the Bear River. The DeLorean was out back and running.

"Hey," Marty asked, "Is your dad okay with you being out this late?"

Jennifer scoffed. "Yeah, but so what? I'm 18 now."

Marty felt that it wasn't a good idea for her to piss off her father while she still lived with him, but he didn't say anything.

As they reached the car, the driver's door opened and Doc got out.

"Good, you're here," he said. "I need to leave as soon as I can. Do you think you could add a second deadbolt to the door, or perhaps an alarm system? It would greatly put my mind at ease. The time machine blueprints are in there, after all. You remember the combination to the safe?"

"We do, Doc," Marty said. Jennifer nodded in agreement. Marty continued, "But where are we going to get the money to buy an alarm system?"

"There's some cash in the safe," Doc explained. "Take what you need. I would greatly appreciate it."

"Sure thing, Doc," Marty said.

Marty had noticed that Doc was already dressed in his Nineteenth Century clothes: a crisp black suit with a waistcoat, a white shirt, and a bow tie.

Doc opened the DeLorean's door. He turned to the couple. "I can't thank the two of you enough for being there for me for all those years."

Marty shrugged modestly. "I guess it was kinda meant to be, Doc."

Doc hesitated a moment. He asked Jennifer, "Would you mind giving me and Marty a moment alone?"

She seemed neither surprised nor offended by this request. "Sure thing, Doc." She walked a few yards down the alleyway.

When she was out of earshot, Doc put a hand on Marty's shoulder.

"Marty, I really can't thank you enough. You were the first real friend I have had in many years, and until I met you I had never realized how lonely I was. And without you, I would have been dead long ago; either in the Lone Pine Mall parking lot, or in 1885, or in 1992."

"1992?" Marty asked.

Doc looked uncomfortable. "Well, when I first went to the future, and before I had my rejuvenation, I learned that that was when I died. From colon cancer, apparently."

"And after your rejuvenation?"

Doc was definitely uncomfortable now. He hesitated.

"Okay, forget it, Doc," Marty said. He hugged him. "Believe me, I owe you a lot, too. You gave me the chance to give my family a better life, you know?" He let go. "And it's been great for me that you've always been there, even though I probably got on your nerves a lot."

Doc shrugged. "Nah." He smiled. "Well, when you were 15 and found out I had a Playboy subscription, you kept asking to see one for weeks!"

Marty laughed. "Yeah, I remember that." He thought for a moment. "You know how I have two memories of everything before I traveled in time? I don't have two memories of us meeting. I think it happened the same way both times. It's like it was meant to be."

"Interesting," Doc said. "You know, I've been wondering if there's a sort of 'soft destiny' at work here. At the very least, the timeline seems to be self-correcting to a certain degree, considering that—."

"Doc," Marty said, holding up a hand to silence him. "You're losing me." He frowned. "Does that get on your nerves?"

Doc once again put his hand on Marty's shoulder. He made eye contact and smiled. "Marty, that has never concerned me. In fact, the fact that you don't always understand my ramblings helps ground me. I've missed that the past nine years."

Doc stood. "I guess I should get going."

"Yeah," Marty said. "Jennifer!"

Jennifer headed toward them. Doc meanwhile sat in the DeLorean's driver's seat and typed in a date. Marty and Jennifer could both see it: SEP 16 1894 10:27 PM.

"That's home?" Marty asked.

"For now," Doc said.

"You know," Marty said, "I haven't seen Clara or your kids since last October."

"And I'd like to meet them, Doc," Jennifer said. "I love kids."

Doc smiled. "Don't worry. That'll happen soon enough. And don't worry." He smiled mischievously. "You'll both find that your lives will soon be quite interesting, even without me in it."

As he reached for the door's pull strap, Jennifer put her hand on the door.

"Doc?"

Doc looked up.

Jennifer hesitated a moment. Finally, she began, "You know, when Marty introduced me to you, I was still a cheerleader."

"I remember," Doc said.

"Well, I think that knowing you helped me realize that I shouldn't care about the bullshit people say. I mean, everyone thinks you're crazy, and you don't care, and I greatly admire that. And I was so worried about what the other girls thought, about my obligations to them, about being 'too smart' to be a cheerleader." She smiled. "The point is, I wouldn't have quit the squad without your example, and I'd be having a miserable senior year. So thank you."

He smiled back. "You're quite welcome."

Jennifer let go of the door.

"Well," Doc said, "I'll see you both in the future."

"Or the past!" Marty laughed.

"Perhaps," Doc said with a wink. He closed the door.

Marty and Jennifer stepped back. Doc started the engine, and the DeLorean's wheels rotated into the hovering position. The couple waved as the DeLorean flew south along the alleyway, then looped around in a wide arc, before accelerating and disappearing in a brilliant flash as it passed over their heads.

As the embers from the fire trail fell to the ground, Marty slipped his hand around Jennifer's waist.

"I wonder what he meant about our lives becoming more interesting," he said to her.

Jennifer leaned into him. "Hopefully, we'll find out soon enough."

THE END / TO BE CONTINUED...